Melissa preaching at RMC on August 18, 2019

Surprising Faith – Aug. 18, 2019

Hebrews 11:1-16

Melissa continued the series focused on Hebrews in this morning’s message. What is faith in the midst of political distress, in a government hellbent on terrorizing the vulnerable?

It’s the failures of the people talked about in this Hebrews passage that animates our faith to continue on. They provide hope because of their brokenness. If they can be used by God, there is hope for us. We are creatures of grace, and that can give us hope.

Surprising Faith – Aug. 18, 2019

 
 
00:00 / 15:05
 
1X

Babette’s Feast

by Melissa Florer-Bixler
A blog entry in response to our “A Year at the Table” series.


It seemed fitting to me that we began our year of exploration and reflection on Communion practice in grace. Babette’s Feast, the first in our film series featuring movies about food and faith, is a story about grace received in a meal. It works around the tensions of mercy and commitment, of righteousness and joy, of holiness and pleasure.

In the story a young woman arrives on the shores of a small Danish fishing village. We discover that she is a refugee escaping civil war in France. She becomes the devoted servant of two elderly sisters, who in their youth, each gave up a chance at love and happiness – one through marriage the other through a singing career – in order to serve the ministry of their father, the leader of a Dutch Calvinist sect. Through a series of events, we can call them grace or chance, Babette comes into the sisters’ lives.

In the background of the film are the themes of regret and choice. How do we make choices and what do we do when we look back on regret at what we have done in our lives? Each of the characters faces these questions.

The apex of the film is a French meal cooked by Babette. We come to discover that in her previous life in France she was a celebrated chef. She wins the lottery and instead of spending the money to return to her life in France, as the sisters expect with sadness will be the result, she spends the entire sum, 10,000 francs, on a celebration meal for the remaining apostles of the sect.

The meal is grace. It is beauty and pleasure, righteousness and mercy kissing one another. Old hurts are overcome. Love that has been shamed is brought into the open. Regrets are lost in the hope and possibility of God’s constant provision, even when it is least expected.

The next day when we celebrated Communion as a church I had this scene in the back of my mind. The excess and abundance of Babette’s meal, her gratuitous and unmerited gift. 

During the meal the captain, the would-be-lover of the older sister, who returned to see her once more in his old age, offers a speech. While it doesn’t capture the beauty and pleasure of the meal, the color and scent and taste that waft from the screen, it puts to words the grace that flows through the meal, a grace and joy I hope will infuse itself into our church’s practice of the Lord’s Supper:

Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude. Grace, brothers, makes no conditions and singles out none of us in particular; grace takes us all to its bosom and proclaims general amnesty. See! that which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. Ay, that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly. For mercy and truth have met together and righteousness and bliss have kissed one another!

Melissa preaching May 19, 2019

Sacrifices & Finding Life – July 28, 2019

Hebrews 4:14 – 5:10 & Matthew 26:36-40

Melissa works at clearing up misconceptions we often have and reconciling some of our notions of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament and Jesus’ life and crucifixion. We were forgiven long before we knew we needed forgiving.

Sacrifices & Finding Life – July 28, 2019

 
 
00:00 / 19:24
 
1X
Melissa preaching at RMC on May 12, 2019

Finding God in Unexpected Places – June 16, 2019

Psalm 9, Isaiah 53:4-9

This Sunday the service used the music of Patty Griffin to tell stories of a God who is present in the messiness of life. What does the Gospel of Jesus Christ have to say to those with their backs against the wall? The scriptures tell us the answer: God is there with her back against the wall, right beside them, and right beside us.

Finding God in Unexpected Places – June 16, 2019

 
 
00:00 / 13:22
 
1X
Melissa preaching May 19, 2019

Breaking down prison walls – May 19, 2019

Acts 16:16-40

RMC has been part of an interfaith group that spends time at the NC women’s prison, celebrating birthdays and sharing times of worship.

Prisons are created to get people out of the way. They did in the day of Paul and Silas, and they do so today. As Willy Jennings has said, prisons are never about criminals; they’re about societies. They’re a tool for control and containment.

To believe in Jesus is to be set free, just as the jailer was from the jail and the prisoner from the prison.

Breaking down prison walls – May 19, 2019

 
 
00:00 / 14:50
 
1X
Melissa preaching at RMC on May 12, 2019

Decisionmaking in the Church – May 12, 2019

Acts 15:1-29

While the passage is specifically about whether male Gentiles who followed the Way of Jesus needed to be circumcised, Melissa explains this really speaks to the broader decision-making process within the early church. We think we have difficulty coming to a consensus as a church; this was a much more volatile issue!

Note: there was some occasional static during parts of the recording. A few brief sections where it was particularly bad were removed as a result, while some was left in. Our apologies.

Decisionmaking in the Church – May 12, 2019

 
 
00:00 / 12:48
 
1X
Melissa speaking at the Dec. 24, 2018 Christmas Eve service.

Encounters with Jesus – May 5, 2019

Acts 9:1-19

Melissa’s retelling of the story of Saul on the road to Damascus brings a fresh perspective. Experiencing Jesus changes us. God is no longer a set of propositions, no longer a belief system that needs to be defended by logic. Instead, faith is seen in how our life is lived.

Encounters with Jesus – May 5, 2019

 
 
00:00 / 14:59
 
1X

The Resurrection Reorders Life – April 21, 2019

Matthew 28:1-15

Melissa tells us there were two very different realities that Sunday morning, three days after Jesus had been crucified. The contrast between the Jewish women and the Roman soldiers at the grave couldn’t have been greater.

The Easter story is a story of grace. It’s a reordering of life. We’re encouraged to let ourselves be loved by God and to love God in return.

The Resurrection Reorders Life – April 21, 2019

 
 
00:00 / 17:43
 
1X
Melissa preaching at RMC Feb. 24, 2019

The Questions of Holy Week – April 14, 2019

Matthew 21:1-17

It’s Palm Sunday. The day we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the King of Peace. But Jerusalem is a powder keg at Passover, and Jesus tosses in a match. It’s not unlike the unrest during the Civil Rights movement, when activists carried out a series of non-violent direct actions, pushing against the norms and upsetting those in power. The gospel of Jesus Christ will not make you nice or orderly; it will make you a very poor citizen to the way things have always been. Especially during this Holy Week, what are you willing to be left undone, to make space for resurrection?

The Questions of Holy Week – April 14, 2019

 
 
00:00 / 18:15
 
1X
Melissa preaching at RMC, April 7, 2019

Come home – April 7, 2019

Matthew 25:31-46

Johnny Cash plays heavily in Melissa’s sermon today. In fact, the service included listening to one of his songs that talks about today’s parable of God’s judgment, separating the sheep from the goats.

When I hear Johnny saying God’s going to cut you down, or Jesus preaching the story that might make our eyes a little bit wider, I hear a warning, a red flashing siren from people who know how bad life can be when you are drowning in self-deception, in your ignorance of your neighbor’s suffering, or our desire to look out for ourselves even if it means that you run other people down.

And to be forgiven for hurting people we love? That’s where eternal life starts. To let that forgiveness send you out to discover people who are lost and alone. That is the very center of God’s reign.

Come home – April 7, 2019

 
 
00:00 / 13:23
 
1X
Melissa speaking at the Dec. 24, 2018 Christmas Eve service.

Stay Awake! – March 31, 2019

Matthew 25 & 26

Melissa places the parable of the bridesmaids waiting for the groom at the wedding in the larger context of parables around it. All of you who call yourselves followers of Jesus, now is the time! Stop getting distracted. Focus on what we are called to do. We need to find Jesus in the dispossessed, the most vulnerable among us because the reign of God is not in the future. It’s here and now.

Stay Awake! – March 31, 2019

 
 
00:00 / 14:05
 
1X
Melissa speaking at the Dec. 24, 2018 Christmas Eve service.

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard – March 17, 2019

Matthew 20:1-16

A farmer hires workers throughout the day. Some work all day others just short time but the farmer pays all of them the same wages. This may not be fair but it is right. God does not bless people according to title, power, salary or any measure, God’s grace is freely given to everyone. This is good news or as Melissa put it “the full employment at a living wage parable”.

Melissa also address the erroneous use of this parable to raise Christians above others. Dividing people and causing harm.

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard – March 17, 2019

 
 
00:00 / 16:19
 
1X